My family relocated to Bologna, Italy at an early age. I was first exposed to food as a child when my Nonna owned a small trattoria, cooking homestyle Italian dishes. After school, while my friends were playing, I chose to help her in the kitchen to prepare food for our guests, not just because I loved my Nonna, and liked spending time with her, but because I loved the aromas and the taste of her dishes. They were simple, but with well-defined flavours, with herbs and produce from our back garden. This memory of my childhood is what inspires me to this day when I create new dishes.
I was also privileged to train with highly qualified and award-winning Chefs from around the world in Italy, the USA and France, which exposed me to more than just my Nonna’s combinations of flavours, but also to the art of plating.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
I have always loved quality, tasty food and wine, but I also, most importantly, love people and the sharing of food with those you love. I saw becoming a Chef and creating food as a way to bring people and cultures together. It’s my way of expressing my love to my friends and family.
How would you define your style?
I create my own version of Italian food that warms the soul, they’re memorable dishes that are unique, flavoursome and appealing to the eye – a bridge between fine dining and casual dining. I take traditional Italian dishes and transform them into a modern version with attention to where I am. For example, in Italy, we make the ragu with beef or pork, but in Australia, I make my version of ragu with pork shoulder and kangaroo. I braise both meats together in the oven on a low heat for about 6 hours with San Marzano tomatoes from Italy and fresh, aromatic herbs from the Pinelli garden. The fat from the pork balances the leanness of the kangaroo meat; I then pair it with fresh, handmade pappardelle pasta. You can taste Australia and Italy in this dish – unique, tasteful and respecting tradition, but taking it to a new level in respect to where I currently am.
What is your feature flavour these days?
Saffron for its colour and subtlety.
Obsessive compulsive about?
Correct plating and attention to detail in preparation, cooking and plating each dish to produce consistency and perfection. I am also obsessive compulsive about taste and the gradual development of flavours in dishes, because I believe God blessed us with varieties of food and simple flavours found in nature, not just to satisfy our need to eat and keep living, but to make us appreciate the gift of taste and life. Everyone deserves the gift of quality, tasty food and that is all I am about.
Your greatest culinary inspirations/influences:
My Nonna, Chef Massimo Botturra, Italy and Chef Michael Bologna, USA.
What do you love about this business?
It gives me the opportunity to express myself through my creative version of Italian food and provides me with the satisfaction of seeing my guests, friends and family enjoying these dishes, either on their own or with their family and friends. That smile on their face as it brings them back to some beautiful feeling and memory, that love, that feeling and that smile is why I do what I do, every day.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
Saffron. This beautiful spice is delicate and bold at the same time, it can be used in so many ways, even for desserts and when prepared the right way, it can evoke memorable sensations.
Most ‘eyebrow raising’ menu item?
My handmade burrata, which is a mozzarella ball filled with the real mascarpone cheese from Italy and infused with truffle honey.
Pasta Aragosta – orecchiette pasta served with chunky lobster and prawns in a creamy lobster saffron-infused sauce topped with crispy grilled prosciutto.
Swan Valley locals and visitors say buon appetito to modern Italian fare with flair at Pinelli Estate Restaurant & Winery on Benara Road in Caversham. Set amongst the working vineyards of the estate winery and just metres from the cellar door, this newly opened restaurant pays homage to the Pinelli family’s Italian heritage where food and wine are the soul of culture. Sit back and relax with a glass of estate wine in hand and take in the scenic vista, while lingering over a leisurely lunch or dinner and share a warm platter of grilled cacciatore sausage, pork belly, scallops, prawns, artichokes and white anchovies; or twirl a fork around six-hour braised kangaroo and pork ragu, fresh pappardelle, tomato and creamy ricotta. Don’t forget to pick up a bottle of La Tavola Shiraz to take home.